How to be happy: Remember that sad feelings do not last forever

'I feel tense and tired a lot of the time and my mood is up and down, which isn't like me. I probably work too hard and have recently been unlucky in love, which I suspect isn't helping. Any ideas?' D.

Step 1: The feelings you describe suggest that you are depleted and low in emotional and physical resources. Taking care of your real feelings would be a good starting point. Perhaps you need time to mourn being unlucky in love? We often underestimate the impact such events have on our lives, expecting ourselves to move on unrealistically quickly, attempting to distance ourselves from a loss that is ultimately always painful. Recognise that you need time to let go of something that was important to you and that it is natural to feel emotionally vulnerable.

Our feelings come in waves. Mind and body cannot sustain extreme emotional states for very long – homeostasis demands that we return to equilibrium to conserve energy. Knowing that despite the mood fluctuations, the low feelings will eventually abate will help alleviate some of the suffering you feel. Gently tell yourself that your sad feelings will not last, they will pass, as all feelings ultimately do. The less attached to them you can be, the sooner this will occur.

Step 2: To regenerate we need to invest in ourselves both emotionally and physically. The fatigue you feel suggests you are neglecting your health and wellbeing. Schedule in time to nurture yourself through exercise, relaxation and sleep. This is essential if you habitually work long hours or give of yourself constantly. Take this aspect of your life seriously; without your health you would not be able to work at all, so a balance is required. If your work is demanding, you must rest commensurately.

Step 3: If, despite your best efforts you still feel tense and low, try this simple breathing technique for a few moments several times throughout the day: while breathing in, say to yourself, "Take" and while breathing out say to yourself, "Care". This will remind you of what is truly important: to respect and take good care of your feelings, your health and your wellbeing. Taking care of ourselves is both compassionate and wise. For if we do not take good care of ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to?

Cecilia is Mind journalist of the year. If you would like her to answer your problems email her at c.dfelice@independent.co.uk

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